Thursday, 10 May 2018

Local Eat Treats #69 Hot Stuff at The Fire Station

There have been a few changes at The Fire Station of late: A new menu, a new manager (who, by the way, is one extremely dapper chap), exciting cocktails and monthly gin and whisky tastings! Wanting us to experience the new vibe and new menu, Jason (the dapper one) invited Kingsley and I in one Saturday evening for dinner and drinks. How could we refuse? We got a sitter, washed our hair and made an effort to make conversation with each other for one evening and one evening only.

If you’ve been there already, I’m sure you’ll agree that The Fire Station has one of the most charming bars in Cheltenham. If my house were bigger, I’d definitely have that bar fitted all along one wall – a rather grand feature wall - with a sliding ladder up to my favourite gin! A girl can dream can’t she?!
Anyhow, back to reality, we chose our cocktails to get the night started. Mine was the ever so smooth Honey I Shrubbed the Kids with gin, honey water, lemon juice and egg white. I did notice a little panic behind the bar when I ordered and Kingsley and I joked that some poor person had to make a mad dash down to Waitrose for a missing ingredient, but it was worth it whatever!
We’d never had any complaints ourselves about The Fire Station in the past, but we had heard from many people that the service could be hit and miss, so we were interested to see how the team pulled together to give everyone a fantastic evening. Well honestly, the staff were on form; they were attentive at every stage of service from us arriving, ordering drinks, serving drinks, showing us to our table and the same throughout the meal too. We did have to give one reminder about one set of drinks we ordered later on in the evening, but as soon as we mentioned it, the drinks arrived at our table within a minute or two and we couldn’t ask any more than that.
So, with a cool vibe about the place and a whole host of people drinking and dining, we were shown to our table upstairs. Rather than starters, we thought we’d opt just for a couple of snacks to go with our cocktails, this way, we knew we’d have room for all three courses! Between us, we tested out the salt and pepper squid with lime, chilli and aioli (£6.50) and the nduja croquettes (£5.50), because everyone loves a spicy sausage! The croquettes were good, but not as good as their flat bread with hummus and dukkah (£5); the squid however was a big hit with both of us. 
We both chose mains cooked on the robata grill, me with the spring chicken (£13) and Kingsley with a steak (£16). The grill allows the food to be cooked over hot coals, giving another layer of flavour. From two people who absolutely love their BBQs, that ticks our boxes!
Kingsley was chuffed to see his favourite cut of steak on the menu – the hanger. It was served with a peppery side salad, fries (which have definitely upped their game since our last visit) and he asked for the garlic & parsley butter which - let me warn you - is not recommended for those on a first date. For the singletons out there or those too loved up to care, this melted butter sauce is sheer heaven. 
My spring chicken with rose harissa and preserved lemon certainly did itself justice. Usually with any lemony chicken dishes, the lemon is so underwhelming it may as well not be there, or so strong and fake, that it may as well have come from a squirty Jif lemon that’s been sitting on the shelf since the 1990s. But this chicken scores top marks for flavour (lemon and spice), juiciness (don’t want to use that word moist!) and a crispy skin. My only complaint with some of the dishes at The Fire Station is that they can be rather beige. I’m one of those people that likes a rounded meal including some of my five a day - and no, lemon doesn’t count. Having checked beforehand, we were in the know and so ordered a side of (utterly delicious) tenderstem broccoli with hazelnuts and chilli (£3.50), but even just a few mixed leaves on the plate would have finished it off nicely. 
I’ve been trying to put a label on the style of food at The Fire Station for a little while now but I can’t quite capture it well enough to describe to the masses. But in my amateur attempt, they basically take popular dishes and add their own twist; that tends to involve spice, not necessarily as in heat, but an injection of flavour that takes you across the globe to someplace else – I just don’t know where that place is, or even if it is a place, but if it is, it’s a good place to eat! 
With a little breather and time to finish off another cocktail, we greedily tucked into puds – and indulgent ones at that. I had the banana bread sticky toffee pudding (£6) which was a nice - and slightly lighter - spin on the usual heavy and gooey dessert we all know and love. Kingsley went all hot and chocolatey with his pudding which was finished off with salted caramel ice cream (£6.50).
Before signing off, I must mention my favourite cocktail of the evening which was the Fire Flyer (£8). It’s prosecco with a homemade apricot tea syrup and orange bitters. That’s definitely going to be my tipple there from now on! Pour me one please, I’ll be there in two ticks!

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